When it comes to superstars in the NBA there is no such thing as loyalty. If LeBron James can leave Cleveland then it’s unreasonable to assume that any star will stick with one team for their entire career. It does happen, but movement – either through free agency or trades – has just become a fact of life in this superstar driven league these days. When a superstar does change teams it can have a huge impact both on the team he joins and the one he leaves, and NBA handicappers need to work hard to determine both impacts and how they will affect spreads. Today I want to look at the team that is left without a superstar. That is the pro basketball team that the public will often have a very negative view of, so there is a good opportunity for value if the team isn’t as poor off as people might think. Here are six questions to ask to determine what the impact of the loss of superstar is likely to be on their play and your NBA sports betting:
What’s the mood of the team? – This is the starting point because it is probably the biggest single factor. By looking at how players, coaches and management are dealing with the media you can get a sense of the true mood of the team. Sometimes a NBA team will feel totally defeated by a departure. They’ll also seem resigned – as if they know they are going to be a far worse team than they are. Other times, though, a team will be motivated by the departure, and are determined not to let it affect them off or on the court. That doesn’t mean that they will be successful in their determination, but it is far more likely that you will get a strong effort – at least in the short term – if the team is embracing an attitude like this.
How did they lose him? – There are different ways that a team can lose a superstar, and each can have a different impact on the players. If a player leaves through free agency – whether it is for more money or just to a team that is deemed more likely to win – the basketball team could rally around that and look to prove the player wrong, or they could take it as a hit to their self esteem. If the NBA player is traded away then they could turn against management for making the decision. There is no one certain way that any team will respond. It’s important to think about the impact of the deal and how this particular team is likely to take it, as it can affect every part of their play.
Who is the replacement? – It’s easier to accept the loss of a superstar if a viable candidate for replacement is on hand. Perhaps there is a backup who is more than capable so management was okay with making a deal. Or perhaps a replacement was part of a trade. Maybe a free agent was added to replace the departed player, or a high profile rookie will take his place. What you need to look at in these situations is not that the superstar is gone, but rather at what the difference is between what the superstar brought to the team and what the replacement is likely to bring. Can they make up for their three-pointers, assists of foul shooting? Quite often that impact is less than people will think – especially if the replacement is competent but not well known.
How good was he? – This is important because the NBA is such a personality driven league. It’s very easy for a pro player to have a reputation that exceeds their current contribution on the court. If the player used to be great but age, injuries, or fading determination has softened their skills somewhat then the player could easily overvalue the impact of his departure. You need to really focus on assessing what the player is actually doing now, not what he used to do, or what he is capable of doing when at his very best.
Was the system a contributing factor? – Time and again in the NBA we’ll see a player who looks like a real star on one team move to a different team and look like a shadow of his former self. As a result it’s very important to look at the system he was playing in to see if it really contributed to his impact. If a pure scorer plays in a high tempo offensively focused system, for example, then he could look to be much more of an offensive force than he might actually be if placed in a different system. It’s also quite possible that a replacement player given the same opportunities in the same system could also prove to be quite productive.
How is the public reacting? – In these situations it is crucial to get a sense of how the public is reacting. Are they convinced the NBA player is really a superstar, or does a lot of public sentiment seem to indicate that he is overrated? Are people largely excited about the new team, or sympathetic towards the old team. How do people seem to feel about what the team has done to replace the departed star? Public sentiment will be a big driving force for early betting decisions, so knowing where that sentiment lies can help you spot nice value if you think that that sentiment is misguided. Gamblers need to weigh all of these factors when analyzing NBA lines and making your wagers.